Born Marquis Lewis on March 24, 1979 in Los Angeles, CA, RETNA joined the Los Angeles mural scene as a teenager, developing his text-based signature style featuring intricate line work, complex layering, and a wide range of color. RETNA picked his moniker from the lyrics of a Wu Tang song that resonated with him in his youth. His paintings are characterized by a geometric script he developed while looking towards Egyptian and Native American traditional symbols. Though his marks resemble the calligraphy of multiple cultures (and he maintains that he composes his works in English and Spanish), the writing does not belong to a particular language. Retna explains, “I want my text to feel universal. I want people from different cultures to all find some similarity in it—whether they can read it or not.” He also stated that “it is important to have art in the streets as a cultural fabric that is woven into the city for the upliftment of civic pride.”
His works are in the private collections of Jeffrey Deitch, Swizz Beats, Usher, and Dave Chappelle, among many others. RETNA’s large-scale mural across the eastern exterior of Restoration Hardware’s new gallery in West Palm, Florida, which was valued at $500,000 by the city’s Art in Public Places program. He has collaborated with major fashion brands including Nike, Louis Vuitton, Chanel and Helmut Lang and designed the artwork for Justin Bieber’s ‘Purpose’ album cover. RETNA also acted as the artistic designer for the San Francisco and Washington National Opera’s production of AIDA.
He has exhibited at venues throughout the world, notably including L.A. Art Machine in Los Angeles, Don Gallery in Milan, Yves Laroche Galerie d’Art in Montreal, and Art for All in Malaga. The artist continues to live and works in Los Angeles, CA.